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Life is interesting 「縁」の不思議

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The trip for Neil and I for this summer was to Macedonia and Bulgaria.  We went to Macedonia for a wedding for a week.  Bulgaria was sort of chosen quite accidentally. We loved both places, and this trip made me think about ‘En’. It is a Japanese word which does not really have an equivalent translation in English.  It means something like ‘connections with people’ or ‘karma between people’ or ‘synchronicity in meeting people’….something like that.

I met Lucy more than ten years ago.  I was still working downtown in the World Trade Centre building.  Lucy was a co-op student from Simon Fraser University working for one of the BC government offices.  We first chatted when we were passing by each other in the corridor. I remember her saying at the time that she was studying Japanese.  I saw her several times either in the corridor or lunch room.  We only chatted for a few minutes.  I was very busy at the time with so many changes happening at work, and did not really notice until one day a memo came from the government office saying she was leaving. “Oh…. so Lucy is finishing her co-op program and going back to school,” I phoned her up and invited her for lunch.  That was the beginning of our friendship.

“So what are you studying when you go back to SFU?” I asked.

“I’m taking a class called Business Strategy,” she said.

“Oh…. oh, really? Who is the professor?”

Then, she looked for a piece of paper down in her purse, picking it out, and said,

“Hm…. Dr. Neil Abramson…” My eyes rolled.

I told her that he is my husband, and we agreed to keep it secret.  So for the whole semester Neil had no idea Lucy and I were friends.  Lucy finished the class with an excellent mark, and Neil had a pleasant surprise afterward.

Lucy kept in touch with us.  She came to visit us, talked about her future studies, work issues, career….  Neil was happy to give her feedback, talk about his own experiences, and became like her mentor.  And one day, we received a phone call from Toronto, that she was getting married in Macedonia!  Life is interesting…..

So that’s how our Macedonia trip happened.  When I was looking for some tour to participate in after the wedding, scrolling up and down my favorite website, responsibletravel.com, I came across this Eight Day Bulgaria Cultural Tour.  Since Europe in August can be so crowded and expensive, wouldn’t it be nice to go to a place where it’s quiet and relatively unknown….  We certainly made the right choice.

I had never dreamed of visiting Macedonia or Bulgaria.  They were simply not on my list of the places I wanted to visit.  Life is indeed interesting. How much I enjoyed being there, learning about their history, religion, politics, culture, exotic villages, traditional houses, arts and crafts…., were totally beyond words.  We certainly had an adventurous time driving ourselves in a rental car from Sofia to Skopje to Lake Ohrid, and back to Sofia.  Above all, I enjoyed the people.  In Macedonia, meeting Lucy’s newly husband, Mitko, and their families and friends was very special. I met Lucy’s mother and sister for the first time and enjoyed talking with them.  I became reacquainted with Neil’s former student, Sarah, and her husband and their little boys. I thought Mitko’s mother was so dynamic.  She was an enthusiastic person, dancing for hours, entertaining and taking care of people.  She looked cheerful, yet I kept wondering how she really was feeling… No doubt she must have been exhausted having had no sleep for days organizing this event.  No doubt she would be feeling ‘lonely‘.  Who wouldn’t?  Her only son is soon moving away to Canada. She had lost her daughter to a car accident, and her husband to some illness.  She lives alone in a small town two hours away from Skopje.  Nevertheless, I was utterly moved by her way of ‘living the moment’. Let’s not worry about the future at ‘this moment’. Let’s not dwell on the past.  Let’s enjoy ‘now’. Let’s live ‘now’ to the fullest.  Let’s provide the best ‘now’ to the guests. I really appreciated her hospitality.

In Bulgaria, we stayed seven nights in a house called “EKO ART” owned and operated by a sculptor, Encho Gankogski and a photographer, Velichka Gankogska. The house was in a small village called Drashkova Polyana, population only 76, situated at the foot of the Balkan mountains.  It is sort of like Minshuku in Japan, or a B&B (with lunch and dinner) in North America.  Not a hotel or inn, but a house, and Vily cooked wonderful meals for us with their home grown vegetables.  Encho taught us pottery.  We went to a nearby town called Troyan (population about 20,000) and learned icon painting.  We went to a small deserted looking village and learned woodcarving.  We were introduced to some traditional instruments, and had fun dancing. For a person like me, who is not so young, interested in different cultures, ….not particularly interested in luxury or expensive shopping or deluxe dining, or relaxing on a beach all day….you get the idea…, this tour was perfect.  Neil and I got to emerge in the village life and got to experience the culture by learning, being taught hands-on by local people. I liked the fact that our visit actually helped to bring income to the village people, not to a mammoth corporation. Our guide and interpreter, Ivan Dinkov, was a brilliant man.  He said he was educated in a Russian school.  He was a truly smart and unique character.  He had interesting views of life and the world, perhaps coming from his upbringing by his communist poet father and actress mother.  He provided us with many many stimulating and interesting conversations for the eight days.

I wonder…people are like threads.  We live in different parts of the world, live totally different lives having no idea who exists where… and one day we meet. Threads come to be woven together for a period of time, and then part again.

Is Vily picking her tomatoes and cooking those delicious meals now?

Is Encho enjoying his own flavorful apple Raki now?

Is Ivan walking through the mountain pass where a flock of sheep and goats peacefully munch guarded by sheepdogs?

And, I am back in Canada with my own life.

Life is really interesting.

今年の旅行はマケドニアとブルガリアだった。マケドニアは結婚式に出席するため、そしてブルガリアはどちらかというと偶然。でもなんだか人の縁について考えさせられる旅だったように思う。

私がルーシーと出会ったのはもう10年以上も前のこと。まだダウンタウンのワールドトレードセンター内で働いていたころだ。サイモンフレーザー大学の研修生のような形で州政府のオフィスに派遣されてきた彼女と廊下でちょこっと立ち話をしたのが始まりだった。日本語の勉強をしていると言っていた。それから何度か廊下やランチルームで軽く会話を交わした。感じのいい子だとは思ってたけど、私も仕事が忙しかったし、いろいろなことが重なってそれ以上のお付き合いはなかった。ある日、ルーシーのお別れ会の通知が来た。「ああそうか、もう研修が終わって大学に帰るんだなあ。お別れ会には残念だけど出られないなあ。。。」それで代わりに「ランチ食べに行かない?」と誘ったことから私たちの付き合いが始まった。

「大学に戻ったら何の勉強するの?」と聞くとビジネスストラテジーのクラスを取るという。「え?あら。。教授は誰?」と聞くとガサガサ、バッグの中から紙を取り出して「うーんと。。。ニール エイブラムソンっていう人」というからびっくり。「ニールは私の夫だけど、お互い私たちが友達だってこと内緒にしとこうね。」ということでニールは何も知らないまま、ルーシーは無事に優秀な成績でクラスを終えた。もちろんあとで実は私たち友達だったときいてニールはびっくり。

それから何年もルーシーは機会あるごとにニールや私に会いに来てくれた。進路や仕事の話をしてくれて、ニールはとくに彼女のメンターのような役割を果たしたのかもしれない。その彼女が思いがけずマケドニアでマケドニア人の素敵な彼氏と結婚式を挙げることになった。人生分からないものだ。それなら私たちもぜひ行こうではないか、とマケドニア行きを計画したのだ。結婚式は8月だからそのあとどこかに寄りたいけどヨーロッパはどこも観光客でいっぱい、どこか静かなところはないかなあと探していて、たまたま目に付いたのがブルガリア。

訪れることになるとは夢にも思ってなかった国々。全く思いがけなかった旅行。エキゾチックな景色に何も知らなかった歴史や宗教、政治状況、遺跡の数々、興味深い旅だった。でも何よりも私の心を強烈に打ったのは出会った人々だ。マケドニアでは、ルーシーやミッコの家族や友達との素敵な出会いがあった。新郎のお母さんの姿も目に焼き付いている。いったいどこからそんなエネルギーが出てくるの?と目を見張るようなダイナミックな明るいお母さんで、ゲストのみんなを先導して踊ったり会話をしたり気配りをしたり。言葉が通じず直接会話は出来なかったけど、聞けば交通事故で18歳の娘さんを亡くし、数年前には旦那さんを亡くし、母一人子一人だという。たった一人の最愛の息子が結婚して近い将来、遠くカナダへ行ってしまうことに淋しい思いをしていないわけがないのに、この明るさはどこから来るのか。。。「今」を大切にしよう。「今」を楽しもう。お客さんに最高の「今」を提供しよう。そんな心配りを感じて心が温まった。

ブルガリアではバルカン山脈の麓の小さな小さな人口76人の村で、彫刻家のエンチョと写真家のヴィリーが経営するEKO ART というハウスに7泊した。ペンションとか民宿とかって感じかな?一軒の家で、ヴィリーが朝昼晩、庭で採れた野菜を使ってホームメイドの素晴らしい食事を作ってくれた。エンチョは私たちに陶芸を教えてくれた。Troyanという町(人口約2万人)に行ってアイコンペインテイングを習ったり、さらに寂れた部落で木彫りを教わったり、民族楽器やダンスを習ったり。。。観光客である私たちのお金が直接村に住む人々の収入になる、私たちも村の人たちと直接接して彼らの生活や文化を学ぶ、そんな企画が嬉しかった。ずっとつきっきりで通訳してくれたガイドのイヴァンは共産党の党員だった父親と女優の母親の元に生まれロシア語で教育を受けた人。頭脳明晰、ユニークな思考の持ち主で、話に刺激があり、とても楽しかった。

地球の反対側で、全く違った環境で生きてきて、全く異なる人生を歩んできて、今まで全く関係のなかった人たち、そんな人たちがあるとき思いがけず出会って、人生の糸が何日間かだけ紡ぎあう。そしてまた離れていく。

今もヴィリーは天然酵母のパンを作って庭のトマトを採って美味しい夕飯を作っているだろうか。

エンチョは自作のリンゴのブランデイを目を細めながら満足げにすすっているだろうか。

イヴァンはバルカンの山を羊やヤギの群れを見ながら歩いているだろうか。

そして私はカナダの日常に戻り、こうして人の縁の不思議に思いを巡らしている。。。。

不思議だ。つくづく人の縁は不思議だと思う。

Author: Haruyo Abramson

I'm a musician, mom, and grandma, living in BC, Canada with my husband and three dogs.

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